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Amazing light emission properties of gold lead to many applications

COLLEGE STATION - The discovery of unexpected light emission properties of gold by a Texas A&M University chemist is leading to a wide range of applications in medicine, genetics and chemistry.

John P. Fackler Jr., Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Toxicology at Texas A&M, discovered six years ago that some gold compounds were emitting fluorescent light in a much longer time than expected.

When a chemical compound is hit by light, it gets excited, and further emits fluorescent light. Fackler discovered that the fluorescent light emitted by some gold compounds could last one million times more than usually observed. "The light must get trapped inside the compound," says Fackler. "Then the light bursts into a glow in longer times than expected."

Fackler noticed that this fluorescence occurs when gold atoms are arranged in chains and the distance between them is 3.5 angstroms (one angstrom is one millionth of a centimeter).

"The gold compound emits fluorescence because gold atoms form linear chains and interact with each other," Fackler says. "The distance between the atoms is very important. If it is over 3.5 angstroms, you do not get fluorescence; if you are below that value, the light changes its color."

The fluorescent light also changes its color depending on the atoms surrounding gold. So different atoms can reveal their presence by the different colors of the fluorescent light emitted by the gold compound.

"These gold compounds have some beautiful capabilities for becoming sensors to detect the presence of small concentrations of components, because light changes its color when gold interacts with different components," Fackler says.

The light emission properties of gold can also be used to detect diseases when gold attaches to nucleic acids in cells.

"As demonstrated by Chad A. Mirkin, professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, gold clusters have been designed to probe nucleic acid structure that might be asso
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Contact: John P. Fackler, Jr.
Fackler@mail.chem.tamu.edu
979-845-0648
Texas A&M University
30-Nov-2000


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